Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Collaborative Law

Collaborative Law and Patient Safety

Patient safety isn’t just for medical professionals anymore. My entry on March 24 was about my invitation by a medical malpractice law firm to hear Dr. Paul Gluck speak to a room full of almost all lawyers. Besides a few administrators for healthcare and a small handful of doctors, that audience of about 100 people were all lawyers.

Today I spent the day in California at a symposium organized by Kathleen Clarke, who over the years has become a good friend from long distance and a great colleague in the patient safety movement. Kathy practices Collaborative Law. Although she has always talked about it and written about it, I never really understood it. So, when I found out I could come out to California and support her work as well as learn about collaborative law, I counted my pennies and hopped on a plane.

Dr. Mark Graber Chief of Medicine of the LI VA Hospital was a speaker. He started his presentation talking about the day we met 10 years ago at a National Patient Safety Foundation conference in Missouri. He said that it was our conversation there that got him interested in patient safety. I didn’t realize that. He told the audience of about 80 people, mostly lawyers, that he said to me after I spoke at that conference, that I must have been glad that the lawsuit about my son was over. I said it was never over. I then told him it wasn’t about the money and he said he never knew that that was how patients and families felt. But, in most cases it’s never about the money. I didn’t need the money. No more birthdays or no college for my son who no longer was alive. What I needed was answers, acknowledgment and possibly a conversation with the doctor who, just days earlier, I trusted with my son’s life. I needed to feel trust again.

Dr. Graber talked about disclosure and how important it is to talk to patients and / or their family immediately following a bad outcome. Organizations practice open disclosure in many states. It makes them obligated to investigate the problem he told us. Only about 5% of hospitals actually practice disclosure.

Actor James Woods was live with his lawyer on video feed to talk about the settlement of his case against Kent County Hospital. The CEO of Kent, Sandy Coletta opened the discussion telling the story of how Michael Woods died in the Rhode Island Hospital that she herself said was in really bad shape when she took over the job as CEO following the death of Michael Woods. A sincere apology, not taking the advice of the hospital lawyers and instead, showing genuine empathy and remorse for the untimely death of the 49 year old father of two, is what was needed by James Woods to end this long drawn out lawsuit. That, and the development of the Michael J. Woods Institute at Kent teaching patient centeredness.

I wiped my eyes more than once while listening to Sandy Coletta tell her story. Partly jealousy that this family had acknowledgment from the hospital while others never get that. I also felt relief that we have moved so far ahead that this hospital administrator actually was open and honest I also realized that we treat these people like heroes because they are being honest about what happened to a patient.

Any way you look at it, collaborative law needs to be our future. Put in the room all interested parties; lawyers, doctors, patients, families and have a conversation. Put all interests up front, gather all the information, develop the options and negotiate a resolution. Everyone is needed at this table and needs to be a “collaboration”. How have we forgotten this part after all these years.

1 comment:

marry said...

Blogs are so informative where we get lots of information on any topic. Nice job keep it up!!

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